Nonprofit Spotlight: Outdoor Afro

During the month of May Outdoor Prolink is proud to have Outdoor Afro as our featured nonprofit during checkout. Every year, Outdoor Prolink partners with nonprofits to give back to organizations we align with. To honor these amazing nonprofits, we’re spotlighting each one and sharing why you should care about their missions too.

Outdoor Afro is a not-for-profit organization celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature. Through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation, they are on a mission to reconnect Black people to our lands, water, and wildlife. We sat down with Outdoor Afro to get the full scoop on their amazing organization and how people can get involved to support their mission. Read on to learn more!

What’s the story behind Outdoor Afro?

Outdoor Afro is a love story with nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 is now a national not-for-profit organization 15 years later. Mapp’s appreciation and care for nature started with her family. Their Northern county family farm in California provided endless revelations about the natural world, its seasons, wildlife, and how to live in harmony with it all. As Mapp got older, she saw firsthand the lack of leadership, preparation, and welcoming in nature-based group trips that she experienced as a youth through her young adulthood. Mapp turned to early internet resources and groups, but she never felt she could find the right match for the community, hospitality, and diverse experiences that rooted her as a child. She decided to create a blog and website in 2009 called Outdoor Afro, which evolved into a social enterprise to tell a new narrative of what she knew Black people were capable of in the outdoors. Mapp eventually created networks and trained volunteer leaders who could meaningfully and safely engage the community in their versions of nature. In 2015, she incorporated Outdoor Afro as a 501(c)(3) to scale the capacity work and its reach. Today, Outdoor Afro continues to live out its nature and community mission.

Photo by Joe Klementovich (@klementovich), courtesy of Outdoor Afro.

What sets Outdoor Afro apart?

Outdoor Afro provides “family reunion” experiences in nature that connect or reconnect Black communities to outdoor recreation, conservation, and education. Across our local networks located in up to 60 cities and 32 states (including Washington, D.C.), more than 60,000 community participants are able to connect and build community around our innovative network activities within their U.S. neighborhoods annually. These activities range from foraging, fly fishing, and cycling to u-picking, snowshoeing, and swimming. Our organization also approaches our community and nature work from an asset-framing lens. Our authentic versions of nature are original and uplift past and present pathfinders who have contributed to and positively impact our outdoor lifestyles and Outdoor Afro’s life-saving initiatives.

What are some upcoming initiatives Outdoor Afro is working on?

This year is considered Outdoor Afro’s “Year of Innovation.” We’re recasting our two core programs to reach more and newer audiences. Our flagship initiative for the past 15 years, Volunteer Leadership Program (VLP), prepares Outdoor Afro volunteer leaders to help connect and reconnect Black communities to nature. Through planned and guided year-round adventures across the United States, VLP’s selected and trained volunteer leaders are able to share their outdoor expertise; knowledge of civics and history; and love of nature in their hometowns. The program’s most-anticipated experience is its signature training and information-sharing event: Outdoor Afro Leadership Training (OALT). Once a year during April, OALT equips volunteer leaders with risk management and leadership skills so they’re able to host up to 12 creative outings a year safely and sustainably. This knowledge-exchange training brings together nearly 100 volunteer leaders, Outdoor Afro staff, board members, guest speakers, and select outdoor partners to prepare volunteer leaders to host customized network activities. After OALT concludes its packed weekend of hands-on outdoor workshops, volunteer leaders guide their Outdoor Afro networks in local activities like kayaking, rock climbing, surfing, and more.


Heading into the summer months, the aim of our 2024 Making Waves Program is to ensure up to 1,200 children and caregivers learn how to swim. Making Waves provides water safety and beginner swimming lessons to Black youth and their guardians. Outdoor Afro created our swim program in 2019 to ensure every child and caregiver within our sphere of influence learns basic swim techniques. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black youth between the ages of 10 and 14 drown in swimming pools at a rate almost 8 times that of white peers. A public health disparity from decades of segregation and exclusion from public pools and beaches. To strengthen water relationships, Outdoor Afro partners with U.S. swim providers to fund kids and caregivers. During 2023, we partnered with new Black-owned providers to fund 1,000 kids and caregivers. This year, we’re increasing our goal to 1,200 so more participants have the opportunity to unlock the joy and love of water.

How can the people of the outdoor industry support the work Outdoor Afro is doing?

Our digital home, outdoorafro.org, serves as a great digital first stop to understand our nature and community work. Our site shares who we are and what we’ve accomplished in nature for the past 15 years now. We also encourage readers to follow us across social @outdoorafro (Instagram & Facebook), joining our online community of nearly 170,000 followers. Your instant access to our organizational developments, breaking news, and success stories happening in nature yearlong.

If Outdoor Afro was an ice cream flavor, which flavor would it be?

Yummy Harlequin ice cream to mirror the variety of ages and nature backgrounds that join Outdoor Afro each year. We are definitely multigenerational fun in the outdoors.


Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Outdoor Afro

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro

Kelly Knauf leads the marketing team at Outdoor Prolink. She is a mountain lover, outdoor enthusiast, and professional snack packer. By day she answers emails and writes content, by night she's plotting her next camping trip or snowboarding adventure.

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